All interacting systems science perspective

As most countries seem to still operate on efficiency or effectiveness perspective and very few in the recent decade have moved toward formulating their policies in the light of Sustainable Development Goals, the domain of public administration has still not evolved with respect to the sustainability of communities and ecological systems.

In the above context, the “all interacting systems science” perspective of public administration may look very futuristic. However, the recent lessons and realization from the experiences of the current COVID-19 pandemic may help us appreciate this perspective of public administration as the possible way forward for our sustainability at different levels - small communities, districts, nations, and global level.

Public administration from an “all interacting systems science perspective” would consider that every actor and matter in an ecosystem interact and influence each other dynamically. These interactions create ideas, matter, and energy. In such a situation, each actor, including all living species and matter, is interconnected, interdependent, and is in coexistence with each other. From the above perspective, instead of the positivistic top-down approach of administration, constructivist bottom-up approach would be the way forward for public administration that is not only efficient and effective but also sustainable. A detailed illustration of this and its impact on community systems is provided in Chapter 6 of the book.

Means to handle crisis during the recent global pandemic is a case in point. Unable to deal with the complexity of COVID-19 pandemic through the top- down positivistic perspective, several state governments and the central government in India gave the powers of the DM to the elected representative at the lowest level of governance (GP/Ward) to deal with the complex dynamics at the village and small community levels. Indeed, all reforms in public administration toward decentralization and bottom-up approach, such as 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Indian Constitution, and historical efforts in Europe, Israel, and China, too have good governance through communes as the essence of the above proposed “all interacting systems science” perspective.1

Sustainability is a dynamic state of deep relationships among the people and all the constituents, both living and nonliving, within a micro ecological unit that strongly values the acts of sacrifice, reciprocity, and love for each other, where the priority is to strengthen the weak and where the spirit of high external cooperation and high internal competition not only drives its own ecological unit to eternal peace, joy, and happiness but also inspires other micro ecological units for such deeper interrelationships (Nayak, 2017). Relationship of trust, cooperation, friendship, brotherhood (Ubuntu), and solidarity is core to the “all interacting systems science” perspective.

Using the framework of “all interacting systems science” perspective, the complex social-political-economic systems can be simplified through six critical dimensions of ecology', governance, organization, production, institution, and relationships. Further, instead of undertaking development interventions through specialized schemes and program, holistic intervention at the level of small communities and lowest level of governance and administrative units needs to be adopted. The orientation of the executive branch of the governments and the bureaucrats need to change from the top-down public administration to a bottom-up administration. The government(s) needs to appreciate the collective strengths of people at respective ecosystems over the strength of taxes that a few people pay to run the huge public administration structures of a country.

The burden of district administration would greatly be simplified and transaction cost reduced substantially when the district administration would be driven by the needs of the people in respective small clusters (GPs/Wards). The role of district administration in such a bottom-up all interacting systems science approach would be to allocate an overall budget and facilitate in providing the basic technical support to respective clusters and monitor their progress. As the specific planning, budgeting, and implementation would be undertaken by the people within the community of local ecosystems, the plans would be contextual and realistic with lower cost to district administration.

In summary, efficiency paradigm of public administration emanated from the trading enterprises and colonial governments including corporations and governments that were embedded in competitive market economies like the United States.

Effectiveness paradigm of public administration was an outcross from the experiences of Great Depression, the Second World War, and countries that were embedded in the principles of communism such as Russia and China. Further it has been observed that when nation-states (irrespective of whether a nationstate has been embedded in capitalism or communism) become economically unstable and vulnerable, top-down state intervention through the hierarchy of state bureaucracy becomes more prominent and justified. This pattern has been observed in most of the large countries, such as the United States, Russia, China, India, and Brazil.

The idea of sustainability has emerged to be one of the most popular themes across different fields and human engagement and has been broadly interpreted from the perspectives of development and sustainability of the earth. On the one hand, the ideas of sustainability are yet to enter the mainstream planning and policy making of most governments across the world. On the other hand, despite the growing significance of sustainable development, there is no concrete and clear framework to clarify what sustainability means and how it could be operationalized in our reality. Further, sustainability that has been debated and planned for has primarily been from an anthropocentric perspective, that is, primarily toward the well-being of one of the species on the plant, the Homo sapiens (human beings).

For human beings to flourish and be in peace, public administration and district administration, in particular, has to explore and transit to “all interacting systems science” perspective that provides a framework to align natural principles of interconnectedness, interdependence, and ever interacting with each other to create a dynamic reality. While this approach may be futuristic, it is worth exploring to transform today’s district administration to be responsive and relevant to people and their ecosystems. Table 2.2 provides a summary of different perspectives of public systems management on seven different criteria.

However, it is to be noted that each of the above four perspectives is not independent and exclusive of each other (see Figure 2.2). Indeed, each of these represents different levels of simple to complex analytical frameworks to understand our realties. Interestingly, they belong to a set of four concentric circles with efficiency representing the inner most circle, effectiveness representing the second circle, anthropocentric sustainability representing the third circle, and all interacting systems science representing the fourth outmost circle, encompassing all the three other inner concentric circles. Our next two chapters explore eight varied case studies from two different districts to appreciate these intricacies of realities. We also evaluate those using well-established analytical frameworks from public spaces such as POSDCORB, leadership competencies, stakeholder management, and such to take forward concrete experiential lessons. Our last two chapters anchor on them to propose some ways forward.

Table 2.2 Summary of Different Perspectives of Public Systems Management





A nthropocentric Sustainability

All Interacting Systems Science


Point of space

A body of space (organization or department)

Large extent of space with diverse population

Large extent of space with a diverse ecosystem

Time (x2)

• Point of time

• Period of time (say five- year plan)

• Intergenerational (>30 years)

• Planetary time span

Context (x3)

  • • Closed system
  • • Relatively homogenous (SC, ST, Muslim, and Hindu)
  • • Open system
  • • Relatively heterogeneous

• Natural diverse ecosystems

Objective Function (x4)

• Neutral to objective

• Objective of an organization or a department

• Trade off multiple objectives of social, economic, and environment factors for sustainability of human beings

• Thriving ecological system including living species and physical matter that is in harmony and peace

Value Base (x5)

  • • Tight control
  • • Output oriented
  • • Contractual relationships
  • • Tight control
  • • Outcomes of specific actor(s), organization(s), or institution(s)
  • • Paternalistic giving (subsidies)
  • • Human rights
  • • Dignity of individuals
  • • Balance production and consumption
  • • Interconnectedness
  • • Interdependence
  • • All interacting systems
  • • All species and matter influence each other for a thriving planet


Table 2.2 Contained







All Interacting Systems Science

Orientation of Public Systems Management (x5)

  • • Positivistic
  • • Top-down
  • • Top-down
  • • Service and appeasement
  • • Top-down
  • • Sustainability of human society
  • • Achieve individual SDG goals
  • • Bottom-up
  • • Constructivism
  • • Coordination
  • • Alignment
  • • Integration
  • • Facilitation

Typical Indicators of Performance (x6)

  • • Profit
  • • GDP
  • • Volume of different crop produced
  • • Fulfilling numerical targets
  • • Utilization of allocated budget
  • • Number of people below poverty
  • • Infant Mortality Rate (IMR)
  • • Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR)
  • • Well-being, happiness, and peace
  • • Self-reliance of communities from external agencies and government(s)
  • • Biodiverse ecosystems
  • • Climatic balance

Source'. Adapted from Nayak (2017).

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